Health & Environment

“Snow Farms” vs. “Boston Harbor”

With every storm, the snow keeps piling up, shown here on Commercial Street after a recent storm.

What to do with the snow? That is the question. On Friday, Boston Public Works was active in the North End / Waterfront area filling dumptrucks with snow from crosswalks and intersections.

Abby Goodnough writes about the Boston situation in today’s New York Times:

“In Boston, where more than 60 inches have fallen since Christmas, plows are depositing excess at six “snow farms” — otherwise known as vacant lots — around the city. The term might sound quaint, but a snow farm in South Boston featured mountains of dirty, icy snow on Thursday, hardly the stuff of Currier & Ives.”

Environmental laws prevent dumping excess snow in Boston Harbor. In addition to the City of Boston, many private properties also hire the trucks and dumpsters to ship away the snow.

Should the snow be allowed to be dumped into Boston Harbor?

Challenging these actions is Paul Levy, former head of the MWRA, the State agency that oversaw the cleanup of Boston Harbor. Levy says this is one rule he just doesn’t understand. He blogs about why the snow should go in the harbor:

“Yes, I know that snow on city streets picks up all kinds of chemicals and pollutants from the city environment, and I know it also picks up salt and chemical de-icers during its residence time.”

“But, instead of dumping this snow in the harbor, it gets trucked — using thousands of gallons of fuel which create all kinds of air emissions — to inland locations. What happens there? It melts, and those same pollutants enter the ground water system. Or they go into city storm drains, where they end up where? Boston Harbor.”

More on Paul Levy’s blog.

One Reply to ““Snow Farms” vs. “Boston Harbor”

  1. Dump the snow in the harbor? Why, we mustn't! How could we bear to pollute our pristine ocean with, god forbid, water and salt? And don't forget the small amounts of oil and tar; if we first allow them to melt and soak into our ground water, people with wells will drink them, providing a sort of human filter to protect our pristine harbor. We must also consider the huge amount of fuel we burn trucking (and even melting) the snow, if we stopped, the folks who've been making money selling it might get mad and dump it into the harbor. We can't have that. Isn't it nice to live in a state that really cares about health and the environment?

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